Opinion: Native Americans approve ‘Chieftain’ mascot name, Sen. McCormack does not

The controversial dispute over using the name “Chieftains” for a school mascot highlights the problems of government deciding what words are acceptable for communities to employ in naming themselves, a democratic tradition by which the “Chieftain” name for Green Mountain High School was selected, removed and then reinstated.

state of Vermont

Sen. Dick McCormack

The ups and downs of this dispute are illuminating.

It appears that only a tiny number of students and community members complained that the name “Chieftains” represented a racist expression, with the majority of the community failing to reach that conclusion.

Sen. Richard McCormack, self-appointed chieftain for social justice, led the charge against the term “chieftain” as derogatory and racist.

McCormack invoked vague state constitutional rights to education to displace any First Amendment concerns. The Chester Telegraph reported:

“The name the Chieftains has a history,” referring to the 50-year-old Indian head logo. In this country, he adds, “we do have a history of racism … and many of our sports mascots derive from that time. I think that it is demeaning to mascot somebody. But defenders will say ‘but it is a tribute.’ But, it is a tribute without asking the person. … The bottom line,” he says, “is that we should treat one another with respect and dignity. And it is disrespectful to treat (people) as mascots.”

It is disrespectful to impute racist motives to Vermonters without any evidence of such intent. McCormack, who is white, presumes to speak for Native Americans, and claims even a tribute is wrong because the “person” was not asked. Who does he suggest should be asked?

The term “chieftain” is generic and does not connect to an individual person. It is hardly clear the term even accurately applies to Native Americans, certainly not to a particular tribe. As Rob Roper recently observed:

Native American tribal leaders aren’t really associated with the term chieftain. “Chief,” yes, but “chieftain” is a title referring to Celtic clan leaders.

Sen. McCormack condemns Vermonters for paying tribute to natives, while he himself purports to speak for Native Americans to condemn Vermonters.

However, a May 22 letter to the Green Mountain Union School Board from the Native American Guardian’s Association applauds the recent decision to keep the moniker because it pays respectful tribute:

NAGA wishes to thank you for your service to the Green Mountain School District and congratulate you on reinstating the Chieftain name. … The majority of communities want to see the return of the school’s name and image connected to the American Indian. NAGA would like to help educate the community members on the numerous contributions and history of the Native American people your school was originally named for. … We have staff members who can visit with your Board and Administration to educate and assist in a way to keep honoring your school’s Native American theme.

This position offers much merit, as opposed to McCormack’s negativity and speech policing.

Recent initiatives to cancel “Gone With the Wind” and other allegedly racist relics similarly ignore that depicting past life accurately is not an endorsement of those past practices but a truthful portrayal of history. The cancel culture seeks to cancel both wrongdoers (including Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee) and victims.

To quote Rob Roper again:

It’s fine for mascots to be Celtics (basically the white, European version of Native American Indian tribes), Whalers (white Quakers for the most part), Patriots (old, dead white guys), Yankees (white North-easterners), Spartans or Trojans (white founders of Western civilization), Pirates (though the crews were diverse, the famous captains were mostly white), Knights (white defenders of monarchy and a hierarchical society), Vikings (whitest of the white guys) … But, increasingly and oddly in these days of supposed inclusivity, Mascots of Color need not apply. And if one already has the job, prepare to be eliminated.

The NAGA agrees with Rob Roper, in their May 22 letter signed by members of the Dakota Sioux and Navajo nations. But their perspective is disregarded by social justice agitators. As reported in VTDigger:

Green Mountain graduate Laurel King, who now attends the University of Vermont, said the moniker has at times spurred racist behavior among fans and is a source of shame. She refuses to wear gear from her alma mater.

“I would be embarrassed to be associated with the one public school in Vermont that continues to hold on to their racist mascot,” King said.

King said she and another student lobbied the school board to retire the mascot when she was still a student at Green Mountain.

King judges the mascot racist, yet her “embarrassment” is not shared by some of the Indians she presumes to champion. The NAGA letter confidently corrects her, and Sen. McCormack too:

A child takes pride in their school and a community takes pride in school and sports events. The name is embedded in memory and part of the education experience. NAGA’s mission is to preserve and protect the cultural name and heritage from eradication in the community and history. Not divide. “Educate, not Eradicate.”

Removing the chieftain name would eradicate, not educate. Roper’s list of white-name-only-teams would prevail, in the sham of somehow healing past transgressions or reducing racism. Banning mascots using inveigled allegations of prejudice are new transgressions, that foment racism.

Another citizen complained: “What are you saying to the indigenous people?” further stating, “this is definitely going to the state.” Threatening a lawsuit, on behalf of other people, over a generic term meaning “leader” or “head” … But place names, old movies, and statues are more nuanced than these simplistic, agitating assumptions.

Dick McCormack’s prescription is Orwellian: he simultaneously claimed that he “trusts the school board to do the right thing,” but that if it failed to erase the name chieftains the board should be challenged:

He says he knows that there will be public push back. But if need be, he says, the final decision could be up [to] the Agency of Education. And while no penalties are in the law for non-compliance — a fact that McCormack says he regrets — the AOE does have “standards for judging what is an appropriate mascot and they have procedures for aggrieved citizens if they believe that that standard has been violated.”

McCormack calls for the state of Vermont to overrule the Indian voices who applaud keeping the mascot as well as the local community, and rues his failure to grant more government powers enabling such compulsion. This is tyranny, not liberation. It is not inclusive, but divisive.

It is not community members who love their Chieftain name and theme who are causing division. If communities do not have the liberty to select their own name for their sports teams, and ascribe freely their own meaning intended in that name, then soon Dick McCormack and other social justice chieftains will issue a long list of banned words to which evil is imputed.

John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2023. All rights reserved.

Image courtesy of state of Vermont

19 thoughts on “Opinion: Native Americans approve ‘Chieftain’ mascot name, Sen. McCormack does not

  1. mcormack needs to take a long walk off a short pier..along with all his naziesq leftist whinners. Only you hate filled leftist have a problem with mascot names and symbols. May your hate lead you to a early death which would be a bonus for us lovers of freedom and self reliance. Another NY flatlander who came here for collage and to screw up our once fine state. Goo back to NY and fix their problems you short sighted idiot.

  2. Why should the government have any say about what is an acceptable name for a mascot.

  3. McCormack is just another of the pesky wannabe dictators with which our State House is infested. Drunk with hubris, he and the rest of the authoritarian prima donnas in the socialist echo chamber are convinced they know better than you how you should live your life. It’s a shame Vermont voters who vote for Democrats like zombies cannot make the connection between their vote and the pain everyone experiences as a result.

  4. I do not know Dick McCormack. All I see is an elderly man who memorized a script full of party-line rhetoric and propaganda . An old man who has likely profited bigly at the expense of his constituents for many years. An elderly man who will say or do anything to cover-up his dark secrets, dark money, and dark dwelling handlers. The day of retribution and judgement is coming for him and the many in his sect. Declared and decreed.

    • Yes and the other geriatric McDonald from Orange county. 50 years of sucking the taxpayer teat as a legislator. There must be something in the water over in Orange county that makes voters delusional to keep voting for an incompetent, blowhard. He’s the guy that said if people don’t like the (un) Affordable Heat act they could buy more blankets. What a guy, always looking out of his people! I just don’t understand how voters can be this disconnected or just plain ignorant. They rejected John Klar and elected a dunce.

      • No disrespect to elder men intended. It is noted the number of elders (men and women) in seats of politcal power, Federal, State and local, seem to have their keisters firmly afixed to those seats. Their allegience is suspect after so many years of “representative” status.

  5. The Native American, isn’t a Marxist trying to subvert the country into some hell hole. The only reason they are doing this is the same reason they did in communist China.

    leading a cultural revolution, via indoctrinated children and youth, who have no life experience and can not discern wisdom was at the heart. Get rid of the old fours, old customs, old habits, old culture old ideas.


    So it is in VERMONT, through out all biology and family structure, throw out decent monetery policy (it’s all free money!), throw out effective environmental policy, throw out a just legal system and most effectively through out love of neighbor for cancel culture, throw out education for education and throw out a free reas for censorship and propaganda.

    There Are 112,704 people who have refused to drink the marxist punch in VERMONT.

    We only need to change our direction toward truth and love, the lies can’t stand in light of day, they can’t stand up to simple questioning, the lies will not win hearts and minds.

  6. My late friend and co-worker was a Native American. We had a fun chat when the whole Washington Redskins controversy was in full swing. He said and I quote, “We don’t mind it at all. It’s you white people that have the problem with it.” I’m sure he would have no issue with the Chieftains either.

    And why people keep sending Dick McCormick back to Montpelier is beyond me. He is an example of why we need term limits.

  7. Dick McCormick is what’s wrong with Vermont. He’s not the only one, because none of them are from Vermont. The political class has invaded Vermont with their uppity ideas and they want to be big fish in a little pond. I think they need to go back to where they came from and be the nothing they were then, before they got here. Vermont is for Vermonters and those who moved here to protect the state as it was when they moved here. These progressives are agenda driven and could care less about Vermont unless their handlers tell them what to care about. People who voted for this God onto himself) senator, need to pull their head out of where there’s no sunshine and vote this imposter out of office. It’s time for those who love Vermont as it is, to speak up with your vote, in the privacy of the voting booth and send these people to anywhere but not in our government.

    • You can’t blame out of staters for everything that happens in the Vermont legislature, even though I will admit that the majority of out of staters in the legislature are progressive communists. My state rep Emily Long was born and raised here and has voted for every unconstitutional gun law and progressive law that the communists put forth. And I sure there are more than just her. The people pf Vermont (Vermonters) are as much to blame for letting the progressive communists take over their education system & schools.

      • Our educational system is pumping out little socialist and Marxists, who all drink the cool aid of the new world order, and we get what we indoctrinate in our school system. Terrible mess.

    • Yep, It’s People like McCormack dick that have chased this multi-generational Vermonter away from my once dear home.

  8. Haven’t we reached the point, yet, where we really don’t really care what McCormack or any of his ignorant, arrogant, sanctimonious, and obnoxious ilk, think about anything? During my years in the US Army, I worked with many Native Americans, in times of peace and in combat. They were universally proud of being referred to as Braves, Warriors, Indians, Chieftains, and yes, even Red Raiders (pay attention Rutland.) Sure beats the hell out of the McCormack tribe’s moniker of “Snowflake…”

  9. McCormack is supposed to do the will of the people he represents not the will of his personal feelings or his handlers. Your virtue signaling as the rest of the liberal hacks is disgusting. You have been in politics long enough….. retire.

  10. McCormack should stop his virtue signiling. First Nation peoples do not have exclusive rights for the title chieftan. I suppose that Dick’s next mission will be to get the Irish band to change their name.

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